River Raid is the first game I can ever remember playing, and the game that started my lifelong addiction to gaming. My dad and I would take turns playing together on his Atari 2600, and I just couldn’t get enough.
The gameplay is pretty basic (like it was for all Atari games): you fly a plane down a river, shooting other planes, helicopters, and boats out of your way. You also have to make sure you don’t run out of gas. The river gets very narrow at times, and while you can never stop moving forward, you do have a little flexibility in your speed with the ability to slow down or speed up by moving the joystick back and forth.
I loved River Raid most of all because it was absolutely impossible. Crash into a boat or helicopter—you’re dead. Make a tiny adjustment mistake when flying through a narrow path—you’re dead. Run out of gas—it’s over.
I don’t know if it is even possible to beat the game; I certainly never did. But the draw was in constantly trying to: you’d make it a little further, memorize where everything was so you could blow it up without thinking, and feel like next time you were going to make it to the end.
When I finally gave up on ever actually beating the game, I took to just trying to get a higher score than my dad. The multiplayer option lets you take turns playing—when one person dies, it’s time for the next player to take their turn. I very rarely ever got a better score than my dad, but when I did, it was the best feeling in the world.
How to Play River Raid Today
At one time, River Raid was playable on the Xbox 360 through Xbox Arcade, but it has since been removed. Currently, there is no option for playing River Raid on the Xbox 360.